Me and my colleagues soar in the development department, but not so much in research. We’re great at making up associative, adjective-laden descriptions of music and then suddenly saying ‘this is a good record’, because, well, those associations came up and the record was deemed ‘good’. The why and how of this normative framework, however, are usually lost upon the reader. As are the precise workings of the music described. I’d like to start thinking a little differently. I like to believe I write music for the next 16-year old getting into this stuff, for there is definitely no manual available for playing the genres we write about at the Sleeping Shaman. In short, I’d like to reveal. And this time, I’d like to reveal the inner workings of the ritual that is Stealing Fire From Heaven, conducted and preserved in musical form by a band called 11Paranoias. Or at least, point to those workings. I will digress, among other things, on intuition and its use in music. And on the term ‘maladaptive daydreaming’. And Cream… Ah, yes, I hear you shouting, colleagues in the back! Of course, I will try to grade, rate, well, judge this music as much as I can. But always by asking: what was the intended goal, how did the band execute that goal, and did they succeed? Not by slapping a bunch of exhilarated screams and overused adjectives on an internet page. Like some other people do sometimes.
Someone once said that during recording, the best takes are those that seem to fall apart but don’t. Well, everyone knows the best bands our genres have to offer are those that let loose- jam bands, grown out of proportion and powered by amps, pedals and furious rhythms. Sometimes structured, sometimes furious, yet always experimenting with existent motifs in their music. Or, as Adam Richardson (bass guitar/vocal of 11P) puts it in the lyrics of At The Cursus: “Defiling gravity.. defining space.. divining time!”. Some founding examples are Black Sabbath, Cream, Hawkwind, The Stooges and MC5. Some of the newer ones on these pages are people like Swans, Sleep and (different line-ups of) Electric Wizard. These bands write songs or establish motifs and then take their time to jam out different parts of the music, usually in order to make it more intense over time or just to ‘make it go somewhere’. When they succeed, the effects are exhilarating and liberating for both the performer and the audience. This entails a whole lot of practice, getting to know each other and, there it is: intuition. A little word that has everything to do with 11Paranoias’ latest album. Stealing Fire From Heaven is a trip, in the literal sense of the word, through some of the best of what intuition has to offer to music. There’s even a Cream cover on the album. What? Yeah. Keep reading.
This has been a long time coming. Mike Vest (guitar/space stuff), Adam Richardson (bass guitar/incantation) and Nathan Perrier (drums/time manipulation) have all proven themselves to be exceptionally capable in the jamming department. Capricorns, Ramesses and Bong all use(d) intuition to make riffs swing, atmospheres grow and sounds soar. So how does it work? Well, here’s an example. Mike is up to his usual tricks on this record, using stark, gigantic riffs and a boatload of effects pedals to establish motifs and atmospheres. Nathan, however, is doing his absolute best to make sure the beat is firmly in place yet spinning out of control as well. Sound contradictory? Try this one: Nathan might alternate hitting the same spot in the beat with his snare or his kick or even a fill, but he always makes sure the musical motif has the shape that was agreed upon. In short: business in the front, party in the back. While all this is happening, Adam’s bass keeps the riffs and motifs locked down but his vocals hit at different rhythmical spots all the time – and they are sometimes quite literally all over the place. Especially in that Cream cover I was talking about. “But I can’t find it on the tracklist!” Ha ha.. Keep reading. And put on Cream’s Tales of Brave Ulysses while you’re at it. You’ll need it in a few.
By casting their dice, mauling the structures and letting themselves jam out almost every part of every song, the band creates compositions that are some of the best that doom and psych have to offer right now. Their dynamics, rhythms, accents and notes ‘click’, and the added flow and intensity courtesy of intuition make this album way more immersive and expansive than your regular stoner doom band. Even Adam’s lyrics follow this pattern of jamming, using intuition to build and to distort. While all the usual 11Paranoias spacefuckery and maladaptive daydream dynamics are going on, his orations get switched up – the lyrics I quoted earlier are sung, I believe, in a different order than as quoted from the CD insert.
Ah, of course, the artwork! It’s a bloody beast. This is exactly the reason downloading misses out sometimes. The stupefying “Temptation of St. Anthony” by Max Ernst echoes Hieronymus Bosch and colourful escapist psychedelia, and in the insert, the words “hashish hashish hashish hashish hashish hashish” from Lost To Smoke (the sequel to Superunnatural’s Reaper’s Ruin) disappear into the sunset sky, next to the cracks in the painting that are visible because of the zoom level. And it’s not an ordinary jewel case, either: it’s a fuckin’ 3-layered fold out with internal artwork, all different pieces of Ernst’s painting. Thank you, collaborative museum! Thank you, 11Paranoias! It rarely gets better than this in the CD department.
If you own, downloaded or otherwise got this album, this is the time to make the switch from Cream’s Tales Of Brave Ulysses to 11Paranoias’ Retribution Of Dreams. This track deserves special mention. It is, in my not so very humble opinion, the fucking apex of 11Paranoias’ and Adam Richardson’s work. It doesn’t only blatantly plagiarize both riff and lyrical style of the aforementioned Cream song – it makes it fly so much further than the Cream song did, I am glad I’m living in this day and age. This comes courtesy of the aforementioned intuitive jamming dynamics, Mike’s riffs and effects pedals, and Nathan’s brilliant associative drumming, but most of all of Adam’s soaring vocals. What Adam does here is what he’s been up to for a while now: trying to make the atonal and the tonal match, using expression and, well, fucking loud wailing, to make his musical point. And he succeeds brilliantly.
Retribution Of Dreams is the apex of the record, and 11Paranoias stand on the summit of intuition. 11Paranoias don’t play proverbs, they don’t simply play their own hurts and they don’t design contraptions. Instead, they realign perception. If the creation of art is psychological magic, then the creation of magic is art. 11Paranoias listen to the voice they cannot speak to – and know that all will reveal itself. They stand on the summit of intuition.
Still with me? Buy this record, you freak. It’s fucking good. Smoke a big one and enter nightmare bliss. YEAH.
Scribed by: Jochem Visser